April 13th, 2016
Coastal View, March 2016 http://www.coastalview.com/
Kids Who Cook
I begged, I pleaded, I even offered to do extra chores … all for a pair of rollerblades when I was twelve. No matter how hard I tried I could never get my mom to give in to my requests. My entire family correctly assumed that if you gifted me wheels of any kind, I’d find a way to get into trouble. I suppose its justified since the Toys R' Us episode of 1989. I may or may not have hijacked a "Little Tykes" wagon when I was six and driven it outside into the store parking lot. After remembering the sound of my mom's screams I figured it was a shot in the dark seven years later asking for any sort of mobility. Yet somehow I awoke one Saturday morning to find a pair of blades sitting at the side of my bed with a big bow on top. Figuring this meant my family approved of my need to travel, I strapped them on and headed outside to streets unknown.
Specifically, our town’s Main Street where a locally famous restaurant was situated. It was early in the morning and I watched as two Chefs checked in the morning shipment. Deftly lifting brightly colored fruits and vegetables, leaning over to smell the freshness of parchment wrapped cheese blocks and grabbing entire bodies of fish out of ice packed crates, the scene was a sight to behold. Curiously I rollerbladed over to one Chefs side and asked what he was holding? He looked down at me, muttered a cuss word I am now familiar with and replied, "acorn squash kid". Looking down at my feet he noticed I could move faster than his Sous Chef and told me to grab the lighter boxes one at a time and roll them inside the main kitchen for five bucks. Much to my families dismay I returned home that Saturday afternoon to announce I was now employed as a prep cook. After hearing a few more of mom's recognizable screams I took off my rollerblades and with a giant smile gave her a kiss and said thank-you.
For parents of similarly reckless children, there are ways to harness this sort of energy. Here are a few obvious signs I showed early on that I had a desire to be in the kitchen.
*Watching hours of culinary television -- Growing up it was either re-runs on PBS of Julia Child showing me how to artfully hack a chicken, the knife wielding skills of Chinese cuisine Chef Martin Yan or watching the culinary art of Chef Jacques Pepin.
*Love of markets -- My favorite place to go with my family was by far the grocery store. I took the lead and traveled down the aisles with ease, grabbing items left and right. Though mom had little knowledge of anything I was buying, she let me and the market became a "chore" I happily took over.
*Open palate -- Is your five-year-old excited to try sea urchin when you go out for sushi? Does your ten-year-old reference how much she prefers the taste of pasta with pesto to the flavors of Ragu? It’s rare for a kid to smell let alone taste "out of the norm" cuisine, encourage that as much as you can!
*Spends a large amount of time in your home kitchen, actually cooking -- I learned to use a Chef's knife early on and my tiny hands grew used to sautéing over the high flames of our home range. Don’t get too worried when your children desires to master recipes and kitchen skills 100% hands-on. Even if your kid decides not to become a Chef when they grow up, the passion to cook is one to definitely allow them to explore. As we approach the summer months when school is out of session and kids have plenty of time to learn, set up your own in-home culinary experience for them to enjoy. Or sign them up for a summer camp where cooking is included. You never know how much a week of in-depth kitchen work may shape your child's life.